My father Terry Trench (1917-75) was a documentary film maker. He worked on over seventy films between 1935 and 1974, starting as an assistant cutter, and later working mainly as the editor, but sometimes as director or producer.
It is as an assistant cutter at Elstree that Terry Trench seems to have started his film career. He worked as an (uncredited) assistant cutter under the editor James Corbett on the 1935 musical Music Hath Charms, directed by Thomas Bentley, with music by Henry Hall, Mabel Wayne, Desmond Carter and Collie Knox. The film features Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra. This was an Associated British Picture Corporation Ltd film, made at Elstree, London. For an extract from Music Hath Charms on YouTube, see Little Bits & Pieces: Henry Hall & The BBC Dance Orchestra
Terry Trench worked as an (uncredited) assistant cutter under editor James Corbett on Ourselves Alone (1936), another Associated British Picture Corporation Ltd picture directed by Brian Desmond Hurst (and Walter Summers), with a screen play by Dudley Leslie, Marjorie Deans and Dennis Johnston, adapted from the play The Trouble by Dudley Sturrock and Noel Scott. This 70-minute drama film, which tells the story of a British soldier and an Irish police officer who both fall in love with the sister of an IRA leader, was controversial. The Brian Desmond Hurst website says that "Ourselves Alone was banned in Northern Ireland at the time of its release in 1936 although it has now achieved the recognition it deserved and is shown in museums and other public access points in Northern Ireland." Brian Desmond Hurst website.
In 1936, Terry Trench was again an (uncredited) assistant cutter under James Corbett on The Tenth Man (1936), a British International Pictures film made at Elstree. This drama film, directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, was based on the play by W Somerset Maugham. For the plot summary and cast list on IMDb, see The Tenth Man
Working for the Crown Film Unit, 1944-1952
In 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, the Crown Film Unit was set up to make documentary films for the Ministry of Information. Terry Trench joined the Crown Film Unit, and worked on Close Quarters (1943) as an (uncredited) assistant sound cutter. This short film gives an impression of a wartime submarine patrol in the North Sea, with the submariners playing themselves on board their submarine HMS Tribune. It was produced by Ian Dalrymple, directed by Jack Lee, with photography by Jonah Jones and sound recording by Ken Cameron. For a synopsis on the BFI's ScreenOnline, see Close Quarters synopsis
Terry Trench also worked on The True Story of Lili Marlene (1944), directed and written by Humphrey Jennings, as an (uncredited) sound cutter. This propaganda film about the song Lili Marlene first shows the song inspiring German soldiers and then being adopted by the Eighth Army in North Africa. Like Close Quarters, it is a reconstruction that used non-actors to re-enact their experiences. The whole film can be seen on YouTube: The True Story of Lili Marlene
Terry Trench is credited as editor of Two Fathers (1944). Based on a short story by VS Pritchett, the film tells of a conversation between an English father (played by Bernard Miles), whose son is the RAF, and a French father (played by Paul Bonifas), whose daughter is in the Resistance. Two Fathers was directed by Anthony Asquith and produced by Arthur Elton, shot by cameraman Jonah Jones, with sound recorded by Ken Cameron. For a synopsis on Britmovie, see Two Fathers synopsis
Terry Trench also worked on the 1944 film Know Your Commonwealth (1): South Africa, in which he is one of three credits, as 'cutter'. The other two credits are for the composer, Victor Hely-Hutchinson, and the recordist, Ken Cameron. The film describes the contribution of the Dominion of South Africa to the allied war effort.The whole film can be seen on the Indiana University Moving Image Archive: Know Your Commonwealth (1): South Africa
The New School (working title The New Teacher) was also edited by Terry Trench in 1944, with photography by Edwin Catford, music by Benjamin Frankel, and a cast that includes Peter Cushing. This film appears to have received minimal distribution.
Terry Trench was one of two editors (with Alan Osbiston) on This Was Japan (1945), about Japan's pre-war and wartime Cult of the Emperor and militaristic policies. The commentator was Esmond Knight, with music by Ben Frankel and sound recorded by Ken Cameron. Watch the whole of This Was Japan on VPRO, a Dutch public broadcasting corporation.
In 1946, the Ministry of Information was abolished and replaced by the non-governmental Central Office of Information. The post-war films made by the Crown Film Unit often reflect the aftermath of war, social issues, and the relationship between Britain and its colonies.
Terry Trench edited Jungle Mariners (1946), which was produced by Basil Wright and directed by Ralph Elton, the younger brother of Arthur Elton, with music by Elisabeth Lutyens (her first film score) and sound recording by Ken Cameron. This short film re-enacts the experience of Royal Marines patrolling in Burma, narrated by the officer in charge of the patrol. For a synopsis on Colonial Film, see Jungle Mariners synopsis. The whole film can be seen on YouTube: Jungle Mariners
The Way from Germany (1946), directed by Terry Trench, is about the attempt to return eighteen million freed prisoners to their homes after the defeat of Germany. The film shows slave labourers being liberated by the allies, and the establishment of camps for displaced persons. It was produced by Basil Wright, with sound recording by Ken Cameron, music by composer Elisabeth Lutyens, and a commentary written by novelist Arthur Calder Marshall. For a synopsis on Screenonline, see The Way from Germany synopsis. To see the film on the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, click The Way from Germany
Voices of Malaya (1948) was co-directed by Terry Trench and Ralph Elton. Elton headed the film unit in Malaya, which included cameraman Denny Densham. It was scripted by VS Pritchett, with music by Elisabeth Lutyens. To see the film on Colonial Film, click Voices of Malaya.
There is an account of the content and process of making the film on the Imperial War Museums website IWM: Voices of Malaya; it notes that the film unit in Malaya under Ralph Elton shot 250,000 feet of film, which was 'then left to a team in Britain, headed by Terry Trench, to edit'.
Voices of Malaya is also the subject of a 2013 article 'Distant Voices of Malaya, Still Colonial Lives' by Dr Tom Rice (in the Journal of British Cinema and Television), which 'examines interrelated postwar shifts in colonial history and British documentary cinema'. Read Distant Voices of Malaya, Still Colonial Lives. Dr Rice quotes from cameraman Denny Densham's article about the making of the film in the June 1948 edition of Colonial Cinema.
Denny Densham writes as follows about the editing proces: 'Voices of Malaya was really made by two distinct teams, the production unit of four who saw it through the camera in the East, and the assembly unit who put it together in the United Kingdom. It is perhaps strange to realise that the production members saw their rushes upon return, and then retired, as it were from the film. It was taken over by Terry Trench, who with his team started the gargantuan task of moulding a shape to the film. To Terry goes the credit for the idea of "Five voices," and to sound editor, Jean MacKenzie, for the construction of the admirable sound-effects tracks. Upon entering the cutting rooms during the early days of the assembly one became lost in a "jungle of tin cans." Many editors would have shied at the task of producing anything but factual travelogue from this mass of unlinked material.'
A Yank Comes Back (1949) is a story film, starring Burgess Meredith. It was edited by Terry Trench, and directed by Colin Dean.
Daybreak in Udi (1949) won the 1949 Oscar and BAFTA for best documentary for its re-enactment of the building of a maternity hospital in eastern Nigeria, in which the District Officer plays himself and other parts are taken by local villagers. It was directed by Terry Bishop, edited by Terry Trench, and produced by John Taylor. To see the film on Colonial Film, click Daybreak in Udi. A substantial analysis of the film can be read in a 2014 article by Ben Page 'And the Oscar Goes to... Daybreak in Udi': Understanding Late Colonial Community Development and its Legacy through Film'.
The Oscar statuette itself went missing, a story retold by Jo Pugh in 'Daybreak in Udi and the lost Oscar' in a February 2013 blog on the National Archives website. It seems that the Oscar was borrowed in 1952 by the Foreign Office for display at the headquarters of British Information Services in New York, and was never returned.
In 1950, Terry Trench and Terry Bishop worked again together on Trooping the Colour 1949, made by the Crown Film Unit for the Foreign Office.
El Dorado (1951), a documentary about British Guiana, was directed by John Alderson and edited by Terry Trench, with a commentary written by James Cameron and music by Elisabeth Lutyens. It received an Oscar nomination.
Out of True (1951) is a drama-documentary, with a sympathetic approach to the subject of mental illness. It was directed by Philip Leacock, shot by Jonah Jones, and edited by Terry Trench, with sound recording by Ken Cameron and music by Elisabeth Lutyens. For a synopsis on Wikipedia, see Out of True synopsis
Between 1939 and 1952, the Crown Film Unit made about 130 films. Many of these films are docu-dramas or 'story documentaries', in which people's stories were (partially) scripted and shaped, although they often play themselves. For more information about the Crown Film Unit, see Crown Film Unit on BFI Screenonline.
The Crown Film Unit's films were often shown by the Central Film Library's mobile film units, which travelled about the country setting up temporary cinemas in halls, canteens and schools. Their work is the subject of Shown by Request (1947), directed by Colin Dean and edited by Terry Trench. To see the film on Internet Archive, click Shown by Request
Trench's last film for the Crown Film Unit was Royal Scotland (1952), a short documentary about royal connections with Scotland, which also received an Oscar nomination, and was the last film made by the Crown Film Unit at Beaconsfield. It was directed by Gerard Bryant and shot by Jonah Jones. Gerard Bryant recalled: 'There was no script, and all I did was to provide Terry with a number of sequences which ... he merged into a very attractive ten minutes.' The whole film can be seen on Youtube: Royal Scotland.
Denis Forman writing in Sight and Sound in 1952 on the closure of the Crown Film Unit comments that: 'It would be sad indeed if documentary were to lose the genial and understanding leadership of Ralph Nunn May, Margaret Thompson’s precious talent in the handling of children and young people, the enthusiasm and instructional skill of Richard Warren, Ken Cameron’s unique experience as sound director and Terry Trench’s authority in the cutting room.'
Terry Trench saw himself as a 'shaper' of films. Gerard Bryant recalled Trench as having 'impeccable taste, a sure sense of balance and economy of expression', and that the 'first thing he did on receiving a commentary was to remove most of the adjectives'. Trench himself wrote that his job was 'to see that the final result is as good a film as can be made from everything photographed by the unit under its director.' He also considered that an editor's best asset was their 'fresh mind'; and that, especially with non-fiction films, if the final film was clear to him then it would be clear to its audience. Terry Trench wrote that, as most audiences see a film only once, 'no editor should be pleased with a film which, however ingenious, is not clearly understood and does not make its emotional impact first time.' It was the overall shape of a film, however, that is of the greatest importance. He wrote: 'Unless a non-fictional film is to become a mere illustrated catalogue it must have a seemingly 'natural' shape thrust upon it: a beginning, a middle and an end, a sense of people, occasional intentional surprises and a climax.'
Until the mid-1950s, most of the films that Terry Trench worked on were intended for education, propaganda or entertainment, and they were predominantly funded by the state. The government funded the Crown Film Unit and other government film units, such as British Transport Films and the National Coal Board Film Unit, and also sponsored films from independent film units. Some commercial companies had their own in-house film units - most notably Shell, who set up their own film unit under Edgar Anstey in 1934 - but most companies commissioned films from independent producers when they wanted them.
Documentary film-making requires money, but it does not make money directly through sales. The sponsors, whether commercial companies or government departments, have an agenda and a view of what they want the film to achieve. However, the film makers themselves are both technicians and artists, who have a vision for a film. It is the job of the producer to balance the vision of the film makers against the agenda of the sponsor. In the case of publicly-funded films, a concept of public service often dominated, which allowed the artists and technicians a good deal of autonomy. Even in the private sector, films were not always directly promotional. Arthur Elton, who succeeded Edgar Anstey as the Shell Film Unit's main producer, argued that the benefit to a sponsor was in inverse proportion to the number of times that a sponsor's name appeared in a film, and convinced Shell to sponsor many films (such as the Craftsmen series) that make only the most oblique reference to Shell's commercial interests. For more on Arthur Elton, see Sir Arthur Elton on BFI Screenonline.
From 1957 to 1959, Terry Trench lived in Australia, and worked as an advisory editor for the Shell Film Unit of Australia. He was also involved in one Shell Film Unit production in Britain: Background to Performance (1960), a documentary about Shell's research into fuels and lubricants, directed by Peter De Normanville. While he was in Australia, Trench also directed This Land Australia (1959) for the Commonwealth Film Unit, and was an adviser on a number of other films made by the unit.
In 1958, Trench edited Invitation to Monte Carlo, a Technicolor piece about a six-year-old orphan girl who takes a kitten as a present to the daughter of Princess Grace (Grace Kelly) and Prince Rainier of Monaco. It features Grace Kelly as herself, and Frank Sinatra.
The nationalisation of Britain's coal mines in 1946 created the National Coal Board, which commissioned films from both the Crown Film Unit and independent producers. In 1952, the NCB set up its own in-house film unit, the National Coal Board Film Unit, which made films until 1984. For more information about the National Coal Board Film Unit, see National Coal Board Film Unit on BFI Screenonline.
Terry Trench edited two films for the NCB Film Unit, both directed by Ralph Elton: How to Instruct (1958), and The New Instructor (1959), in which an experienced miner learns how to train new recruits.
British Transport Films was started in 1949, with Edgar Anstey as Producer-in-Charge. BTF's films were intended to encourage rail travel and tourism. They rarely advertised rail or bus travel overtly, but encouraged travelling within Britain. For more information about BTF, see British Transport Films website.
Terry Trench edited two films for British Transport Films, both produced by Edgar Anstey. The first was Under the River (1959), about the construction of the Severn tunnel and the Cornish beam engines that keep it pumped dry, directed by RK Neilson Baxter (1909-1978). Trench's second film for BTF was Three is Company (1960), which shows three American tourists visiting Britain. It was directed by Tony Thompson, with music by Elisabeth Lutyens.
Gloria Sachs, who worked as an editor and director for British Transport Films for many years, was assistant editor on both the films that Terry Trench edited for BTF. She commented that 'you could give some editors lots of good stuff and they would make a rubbish film, but with Terry you could give him rubbish stuff and he would always turn it into a good film'. She recalled that 'Terry was chaotic in the cutting room, and you had to keep him in order!'
Paul Smith reports that John Legard, one-time Chief Editor at British Transport Films, explained that it was the normal practice at BTF to have a small group of permanent employees, and for other staff to be brought in on temporary and freelance terms for particular projects, via the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACTT) to 'keep productions fresh'. See British Transport Films - The First Decade : 1949-1959 by Paul Smith, Chapter Two - Establishment of British Transport Films.
Terry Trench served for many years on the committee of the ACTT's Shorts and Documentary Division and as Vice-Chairman of the Film Production branch. Joe Telford recalled that Terry Trench was 'a wise counsellor with a long and distinguished industrial record', who ‘never lost his cool and remained as always polite and considerate to everyone'.
In 1960, Trench edited The Skiers of Norway (1960), directed by the Norwegian underwater cameraman Egil S Woxholt, who had also worked on Invitation to Monte Carlo. Trench made a second film with Woxholt in 1964: a travelogue called Wonderful Norway. Woxholt later worked on many feature films as an underwater and aerial photographer, including the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).
In 1961, Trench was reunited with Gerard Bryant for two comedies written and narrated by Spike Milligan. Milligan at Large: Spike Milligan meets Joe Brown takes a Goon-ish approach to pop music, with appropriate sound effects and visual gags. It was followed by Milligan at Large: Spike Milligan on Treasure Island WC2. Both films were produced for British Lion by the Boulting Brothers.
Terry Trench returned to Australia and worked as associate producer and editor on Bungala Boys (1961), a short children's feature film telling the story of boys setting up a life-saving club on the beach at Bungala, based on a childrens' book, The New Surf Club by Claire Meillon. The film was directed by Jim Jeffrey, and won the Children's Film Award at Venice in 1962. To see the first nine minutes of the film on youtube, click Bungala Boys. For an article with photographs from The Australian Women's Weekly of Wednesday 28 June 1961, see Young stars shine in surf club film
In 1963, Trench directed New Look at London, an 8-minute colour documentary about London, filmed by cameraman Mark McDonald entirely from a helicopter flying along the Thames. This film was produced by British Movietonews, to be shown in cinemas as a newsreel.
Terry Trench edited The Inheritance (1963), directed by Euan Lloyd and made by Highway Productions, which sees two actors from The Victors, Albert Finney and Elke Sommer, visiting Berlin. The Victors (1963) is a feature film, directed by Carl Foreman, which follows a group of American soldiers through Europe during World War II , ending up in Berlin, in which Albert Finney appears as a Russian soldier and Elke Sommer as Helga.
In the 1960s, Terry Trench was made a duke of Redonda by his friend the poet John Gawsworth, King Juan I of Redonda, along with many others so honoured. To find out more about the Kingdom of Redonda, see Kingdom of Redonda on Wikipedia.
Derek Stewart Productions, 1963-1974
In 1963, Terry Trench joined Derek Stewart Productions, and he worked there until shortly before his death. For all the films mentioned below, Trench acted as producer, associate producer, and/or supervising editor.
One of Terry Trench's colleagues at Derek Stewart Productions, Gerry Fallon, recalled that Trench had 'an inbuilt sense of justice, honour and honesty, and he tried to combine all these things in his approach to film making.' As editor, Trench also worked with the composers James Harpham and Elisabeth Lutyens. James Harpham, composer and jazz pianist, recalls 'how nice Terry was to work for, and always introduced everyone to each other, including the visiting plumber'.
Between 1952 and 1963, Trench's work had been insecure but varied: a mixture of corporate-funded and state-funded work, in Britain and abroad, documentary and fiction, as director and as editor. Derek Stewart Productions mainly made films for corporate sponsors, and one of the biggest sponsors was British Petroleum. Trench worked on about fifteen films sponsored by British Petroleum. One Oil on the Farm (1963), Longlife (1963), Independent Assessment (1964), Southend Story (1965), The Ship and the Engineer (1965) and Clean Beaches (1973), all directed by Derek Stewart, and Rolling Bearings and their Lubrication (1966, directed by Robin Cantelon) are documentaries aimed at marketing a product or training a workforce.
On the other hand, a series of films about hovercraft (then a new invention) was aimed at a general audience. Gerard Bryant recalled that Terry Trench: ‘hated any hint of advertising to creep into his films, and he would never pander to sponsors'. By Hydrofoil to London (1964), Eight Hundred Mile Voyage (1964), Hovercraft in Holland (1964), Condor One (1965), with music by Elisabeth Lutyens, The Dawn of an Industry (1966), which won first prize in Belgrade in 1967, and Hovercraft N4 (1968), all directed by Gerard Bryant, and Hovershow '66 (1966, directed by Derek Stewart), rarely mention BP.
Other films that Trench edited or produced for Derek Stewart Productions include documentaries for doctors and medical students, sponsored by pharmaceutical or other related companies. Multiple Injuries (1963), which won the BMA Gold Award in 1964, was made for Smith and Nephew. Development of Endotracheal Anaesthesia (1965) was made for British Oxygen Company, An Introduction to Acute Inflammation (1966) for JR Geigy, and Pain at Night (1970) and Soft Tissue Injury (1974) for Merck Sharp and Dohme. All these films were directed by Derek Stewart.
What to Eat (1963, directed by Gerard Bryant, associate producer Terry Trench), a documentary for domestic science teachers about nutrition, was sponsored by Bovril. The Right Knight (1965), directed by Terry Trench and sponsored by Bovis, is a partly animated allegorical film about contracts in the building industry .
Another sponsor was the National Federation of Building Trades Employers. Man is a Builder (1964, directed by Derek Stewart, edited by Terry Trench) informed school leavers about careers in building. The Build-Up (1970, directed by Gerard Bryant, edited by Terry Trench) is a management training film about avoiding strikes. It takes the form of a story, in which failure of communication is one of the main causes of a strike.
Derek Stewart Productions made a few films for television, including Any Old Thing (1965, directed by Derek Stewart, associate producer Terry Trench) made for ATV, in which antique shop owners talk about their business, and Frontier: The Hovercraft (1965), a documentary made for television.
After the closure of the Crown Film Unit, the Central Office of Information commissioned films from independent producers. Materials for the Engineer (1970, directed by Derek Stewart, associate producer Terry Trench) was sponsored by the COI and the Department for the Environment, and gives information about materials such as glass fibre board, titanium alloys and yttrium iron garnet.
Terry Trench also occasionally acted as an adviser on films made by other producers, including The Mad Twenties (1965, directed by Leslie Mallory), a French documentary about the 1920s.
The Corporation of London sponsored Barbican (1969), about the Barbican development of arts facilities and accommodation in the City of London. Terry Trench was associate producer. This film, with music by Elisabeth Lutyens, won an SFTA nomination, and was shown on general release in cinemas as a support film. To see the film on Youtube, click Barbican.
Barbican's director, Robin Cantelon recalled: 'A piece of string occasionally making do for a trouser-belt, the aroma of pipe tobacco, the importance of the cricket score, and a nice sense of the ridiculous. The idiosyncrasies of Terry Trench linger kindly in the mind. The list of his credits is both long and distinguished and people will rightly say how dedicated he was to his profession.'
In 1971, Trench edited Project Horizon (1971), on which he worked with Gerard Bryant for the last time, and which included music by James Harpham. It is a documentary about the design and building of a tobacco factory in Nottingham, and was sponsored by John Player, Bovis and Arup.
Terry Trench died in January 1975. His forty-year career as a film maker coincided with a period of great interest and change in the industry. Two Fathers (1944) is a wartime propaganda film made by a state-funded film unit. Soft Tissue Injury (1974) is a colour educational film funded by a pharmaceutical company. However, in the opinion of Gerard Bryant, whatever the film, Terry Trench's work always had 'style, clarity and above all, complete integrity.'
Cally Trench, 2012 (updated 2014, 2017)
To see Terry Trench's filmography on the BFI website (with links to synopses for many of these films), click Terry Trench on the BFI website
Photographs: unknown photographers.
Many thanks to Markku Salmi for very welcome information about ten films that Terry Trench worked on in the 1930s and 1940s.